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LSB Advent 1H Sermon – Matthew 21:1-9

November 29, 2016

November 27, 2016 at Calvary Evangelical Lutheran Church – Mechanicsburg, PA

“This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying, ‘Say to the daughter of Zion, “Behold, your King is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.”’”

“Stir up Your power, O Lord, and come, that by Your protection we may be rescued from the threatening perils of our sins and saved by Your mighty deliverance.” That prayer for the First Sunday of Advent has been how the Church has begun its annual time of anticipation for over a millennium. Each year, the LORD’s people anticipate the arrival of their Redeemer. They look for a King who will come to them and exercise His divine power to bring a rescue that no one on earth could ever bring to them.

That anticipation has been since the near the beginning of time. Once the first humans violated the LORD’s Law and began to endure the curse of banishment from Paradise, they longed for the arrival of the One promised by the LORD. Through the ages, the LORD provided more and more details of how His promise to mankind would be fulfilled. The seers and prophets spoke what the LORD told them, including the statement that you heard this morning: “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and He shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In His days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which He will be called: ‘The LORD is our righteousness.’”

Think on the words of that great promise to mankind. Humanity had run afoul of the LORD’s Law. They had experienced the effects of that. You heard part of that Law again this morning: “The commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,’ and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” Yet, that law is not fulfilled. For so many would rather love themselves and pursue their own benefit, even if that means harming others.

Even in the nation of Israel, among those who were known as the LORD’s people, that negative result was found. Sin brought death and chaos among them. Rulers had come and gone, bringing not a rule of justice but of oppression. But the LORD’s promise was to reverse this. A “righteous Branch” would be raised up to rule as king. This new Monarch would “execute justice and righteousness.” The divide between God and man would come to an end, for the name that this Ruler would bear is “The LORD is our righteousness,” and He would bring reconciliation between the two parties.

That great promise led to the song of praise that the LORD’s people sang. You heard and prayed the lyrics this morning: “Lift up your heads, O gates! And be lifted up, O ancient doors, that the King of glory may come in. Who is this King of glory? The LORD, strong and mighty, the LORD, mighty in battle!” That glorious Monarch is what the people desired to see. And yet, how did the “King of glory” appear when He entered Jerusalem? He mounts a borrowed donkey and rides the jerky animal up the stony road to the city gates. This is not the scene of great glory. It is not how most would envision what a strong and mighty ruler would look like.

But Jesus’ donkey ride into Jerusalem is part of how the LORD’s promised act of redemption takes place. The crowds’ declaration about Him is correct: “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” For this Jesus comes with all the LORD’s authority in order to save. He has summoned up all His mighty power for the purpose of redeeming mankind from sin and delivering them from the curse of eternal death and separation from the LORD. That struggle will not be with sword and spear. It will not involve armies and navies. Instead, it is accomplished by an act that looks nothing like victory. Yet through betrayal, suffering, and death, Jesus accomplishes what the LORD had promised: His divine righteousness becomes His people’s possession. The One with “clean hands and a pure heart” comes to offer Himself in the LORD’s holy place, so that all guilt is atoned for.

So why does the Church continue to pray for rescue and deliverance? Because our desire is to be beneficiaries of what Jesus accomplished centuries ago. The effects of sin are not foreign to us. Neither is the guilt for what we have done. We hear the apostle’s statements: “Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law…. Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.” And after hearing them, we must admit that we have not fulfilled what the LORD demands, for wronging our neighbor isn’t an infrequent result of our actions, whether they be thoughts, words, or deeds. We look at our hands and hearts and find them to be polluted and filthy.

But the work of Jesus has been made known to us. We know that our King has come. He arrived in humility, but did bring all the LORD’s authority with Him. Jesus came riding on a beast of burden to be the One who bore the burden of our guilt. After doing so, this same Jesus ascended the LORD’s holy hill, being seated at the Right Hand of the Father. But He has also given His power and promise to bring the results of His work to us. For as we hear of His work and place our trust in Him, we are not put to shame. Instead, “the LORD is our righteousness,” so that we will receive blessing from Him, including the ability to enter into His holy place and dwell with Him for eternity.

So the Church prays for Jesus to stir up His power and come to our aid. We pray for it to be done through the ways that He has established with His power and promise: “Stir up Your power and speak Your words that absolve. Stir up Your power and baptize us with the washing of regeneration and renewal. Stir up Your power and give us the bread from heaven and the cup of the New Covenant.” We desire these acts to be done by Jesus for us. By them we receive forgiveness, life, and salvation. Through them, we have new spirits created in us that are motivated to fulfill the commandments by loving the LORD and loving one another. Through them, we have put on Christ and are clothed in His righteousness. Through them, the divine protection against Satan and all evil is extended to us. So Jesus has dealt with the threatening perils of our sin and we are rescued by His mighty deliverance.

But the Church’s prayer also anticipates something more. Yes, we know about the promises of the Messiah given by the LORD and how they are fulfilled in Jesus. Yes, we have placed our trust in the atoning work that Jesus performed during that week that began with His humble arrival to Jerusalem, as He rode the donkey into the Holy City. But we also have heard the LORD’s further promises. For He does not speak about a merely temporal ruler coming to His people. No, the LORD has foretold the arrival of a kingdom without end where nothing but His justice and righteousness exist. Jesus has declared that this kingdom will come, when He returns in the fullness of His majesty.

Jesus’ declaration puts before our hearts and minds the future that we await. He has promises a place in that eternal kingdom as our destiny. All who belong to Him will be part of it. That is our great hope as Jesus’ followers. It’s what we long for, just as the ancient people of the LORD were desiring to have the righteous Branch of David’s Line rise up. Their prayers were rooted in that promise, calling for the LORD to fulfill it. Likewise, our petition for the promised end to come for us.

We want Jesus to exercise His authority now and bring us the benefits of His work in this life. But we also want Jesus to stir up all His power and usher in the new heaven and new earth. We desire to see the eternal kingdom come, no longer hidden in humility and veiled in the flawed things of this world. We long for the day when all the effects of sin, all the divide between God and man, all the chaos of disease and disorder will be put to an end.

So we offer again our prayer to begin this year of grace, another time of anticipation: “Stir up Your power, O Lord, and come, that by Your protection we may be rescued from the threatening perils of our sins and saved by Your mighty deliverance.” That rescue and deliverance will be given. The LORD Almighty has promised it to us. That same LORD has become our righteousness. His protection has been extended to us. He has granted us His salvation. The King of glory will come, and we can lift up our heads to welcome Him when He arrives. Let that be the hopeful end that all of us anticipate, as we offer our Advent prayer and wait for the LORD’s final answer.

+ In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

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